ALAMEDA – The Raiders secondary has been beset by injuries this season. An already shaky crew never really had first-round pick Gareon Conley, who played two games due to a shin injury and is on injured reserve.
Even he did more than Obi Melifonwu. The second-round safety was active for five games but played just 34 defensive snaps. He won't play another this season.
Melifonwu had surgery to repair an injured hip on Thursday, and was placed on season-ending injured reserve Friday afternoon. Cornerback Antonio Hamilton was called up in a corresponding move.
This is Melifonwu's second IR stint this season. He spent the season's first half on IR following knee surgery, but was designated to return. Melifonwu never played his natural position. The Raiders used him at cornerback, a desperate experiment that failed in a Week 11 loss to New England and barely played after that.
Injury may have played a part in that.
"I can't tell you exactly when that occurred," head coach Jack Del Rio said. "I think it's been a little bit that he's been working with. It required surgery and he had it, so he'll be out."
Injuries ran deeper than the draft class.
Top cover man David Amerson has missed six straight games with a foot sprain, and remains doubtful for Sunday night's clash against the Dallas Cowboys. That absence stings, especially with the secondary working without the young bucks.
Expect Sean Smith, TJ Carrie and Dexter McDonald to maintain their posts at cornerback.
"Those guys have done a good job in a tough spot," Hamilton said. "They've stayed healthy and available for us. That has been key."
Hamilton tore the meniscus in his knee in a Week 4 loss at Denver and is healthy and ready to contribute.
The NFL's No. 25-ranked pass defense must make do with what they've got down the stretch. There's some hope Amerson will return, even after being removed from practice the past few days. He performed side work with a trainer Friday right next to the media area, and continues to work on a return despite having so few games left.
Cooper could come back: Raiders receiver Amari Cooper re-injured his sprained ankle in a loss at Kansas City and was ruled out for the Cowboys game. It might not, however, keep him out the rest of the season.
"I think he's better than he was, but he's going to be out this week," Del Rio said. "I think we have a chance to get him back."